It seems that 1054 wasn't such a big deal: forty years later Pope Urban and Emperor Alexios were on such good terms that a crusade was initiated to save Constantinople and the Holy Lands; even in 1136 Pope Innocent II called upon Emperors Comnenus and Lothair to unite against Roger of Sicily.

This doesn't seem much of a schism. Only after the Massacre of the Latins and even more so the sack of Constantinople that the two sides broke terms completely and irreversible bitterness entered the social psyche.

The Pope and Patriarch were already disagreeing on points of religion from Carolingian times, and 1054 was simply the latest mutual excommunication before the fourth crusade.

Is this a correct assessment?

  • Best I recollect you have a relatively correct assessment: those outside of church elites were blissfully unaware that any schism had occurred in 1054. For all practical intents the latter was the culmination of a spraying contest between archbishops. – Denis de Bernardy Sep 2 '17 at 17:53
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    @DenisdeBernardy I think the split was known much more widely than that. In 1053, Greek churches in southern Italy had been ordered to either close or conform to Latin practices. All Latin churches in Constantinople were closed in retaliation. That kind of thing gets noticed. – sempaiscuba Sep 2 '17 at 18:09
  • In church circles, yes, but best I'm aware the rank and file church goers weren't so savvy about the topic. Also, if memory serves there was a tension back then among the church elites as to which archbishop was church boss, which I think your (otherwise great) answer merely hints at. – Denis de Bernardy Sep 2 '17 at 18:11
  • You should add links to the events that you are talking about. I'm having trouble following your question without them. – Tom Au Sep 2 '17 at 23:32
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    Was the Great Schism already known by that name when the later schisms happened? It's hard to repurpose names that are already in common usage. For example, the First World War was known as "The Great War" in the UK, until the Second World War came along. WWII was "greater" but people didn't say, "OK, now Great War means the 1939-45 war and we'll start calling the 1914-18 war something else." – David Richerby Sep 3 '17 at 14:35

Yes, your assessment is broadly correct but, to be fair, the Great Schism of 1054 was a very real break between the Greek eastern and Latin western churches. The split was not only along doctrinal and theological lines, but also along linguistic, political, and geographical lines. This fundamental breach has never been healed

However, this did not mean that the two sides did not have any shared interests, or that they couldn't work together against common enemies. As you say, examples of this are relatively easy to find. You mention a couple of instances of this medieval realpolitik in the question: the early Crusades to "rescue" the Holy Lands and the united actions by Emperors Comnenus and Lothair against Roger II of Sicily.

Now, you are absolutely right that the Massacre of the Latins in Constantinople in 1182, and the Sack of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade in 1204 effectively permanently sealed the breach and made reconciliation between the two sides virtually impossible. However, that doesn't change the fact that the fundamental breach had occurred in 1054.

  • I've seen arguments that the Great Schism is actually much older (details elude me). 1054 is just the year where it was, pretty much, cemented. – Clearer Sep 3 '17 at 8:20
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    @Clearer The formal closure of Greek churches in the west and of Latin churches in the east from 1054 meant there was no longer any overlap between the two groups. Hence the "schism". – sempaiscuba Sep 3 '17 at 10:03

The Great Schism of 1054 was an "official" announcement of something that had been going on for centuries: that the Latin and Orthodox churches had been "growing apart" in doctrine, language, practices, etc. driven in large part by local politics. What happened in that year was the Rome forbade churches in Italy from following certain "eastern" practices, and Constantinople likewise forbade churches in Asia Minor from following "Latin" practices. The result was a religious "divorce" because the two parties could no longer "cohabit."

That was a "big deal," theologically even if it didn't seem like it from a political perspective forty years later, when the two sides "got together" to fight the common Saracen enemy and start the crusades. That would have been like a couple seeking an "amicable" divorce and agreeing to work together to sell their house to maximize value for both parties.

The later, bloodier events in 1182 and 1204 made the "divorce" turn ugly, and more like a "contested," rather than an amicable divorce, and also removed all hope of reconciliation. But that doesn't change the fact that the "divorce proceedings," read "schism," began in 1054.

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